Monday, September 27, 2004

Falling in love  

Last week, IreneQ began a thought-provoking post with the statement, "I don't believe in falling in love. I never have." I assume that she means she disagrees with building a relationship on the phenomenon, and on that I quite agree. She goes on to say:

I've seen it happen to other people. You spend lots of time with each other, exchange stories, share deep thoughts, create memories, and if you're unwary, an emotional attachment begins to form. Before you know it, you're in love.
For that reason I've always been very careful in all my interactions with people of the opposite sex.…I want to choose the person I fall in love with.

In the comments on Saturday's post, MCF asked:

Curt, do you agree with Irene about choosing? You and Mrs. Happy had a friendship that led to clicking and something more, but if you were of different faiths do you think you would have had the strength to do what she suggests, and be stronger than "chemical impulses"?

My ninth-grade algebra teacher told me more than once, "Don't ever go out on a date with anyone you would never marry. If you go out on a date, you might fall in love. And if you fall in love but can never get married, your troubles are only beginning." Sunday school teachers and church youth leaders reinforced that idea for me in many ways, so I knew that perhaps I could be friends with girls who didn't share my Christian faith, advocated the practice of sex before marriage, commonly used double negatives in their speech, etc., but that I should never date them and put myself in danger of developing romantic feelings for them. To do so would cause preventable heartbreak or soul-killing compromise, both of which I can live quite happily without.

My first experience with "falling in love" happened in my sophomore year of high school. It took me by surprise, because it happened immediately rather than gradually. Something in this girl just made me want to be with her from the moment I met her. It was exciting, tortuous, blissful, depressing, fun, and nauseating all at once. I would have loved to go out with her, to be a couple and all that, except that she adhered to what I consider a heretical religion. I tried valiantly to demonstrate to her the error of her ways and the correctness of mine, but it never really worked. I'm sure I went about things the wrong way in that area. I was a frightfully immature, hormone-addled teenage boy, after all.

Anyway, we both played clarinet in the school band and we shared the same group of friends (who took a perverse pleasure in telling me my feelings regarding her were entirely requited), so I had to endure close proximity to the object of my desire for three full years. It was excruciating, but it would have been worse if I had ever given in and spent some one-on-one time with her. As it happened, though, I emerged from the experience with my soul and my chastity intact.

My relationship with Mrs. Happy developed in an opposite fashion. Neither one of us felt any attraction at all to begin with. I got to know her a little bit at church, then began eating lunch with her in between classes at college. We were both glad just for the company. As we spent more time together, we got to know each other more. We shared things about ourselves and confided in each other. We became best friends. Then we started feeling a physical attraction. After three years, we figured out that we were really in love. There was no blinding flash or ecstatic moment in which we suddenly understood the mysteries of the universe. There was no sweeping anyone's feet out from under them. There was just a steady build-up of mutual discovery and experience that to this day hasn't abated. I should note that if our faiths had been incompatible, the lunches wouldn't have happened. I would not have asked, and she certainly wouldn't have suggested.

At various times in my life, I have chosen not to allow the possibility of falling in love with various women. It happened once when I couldn't prevent it, but for the most part I "kept my head and guarded my heart," as Irene put it. Conversely, I have allowed the possibility with several women, but I fell in love with just one. There is definitely a unique chemistry between my wife and me. I certainly didn't choose to fall in love with this wonderful woman I now share my life with, nor did she choose to fall in love with me, but we did allow ourselves to open up a little. The result, as you can probably guess, is a deeper love than I would have thought possible.